Candidate, meet your colleagues: Interviewing beyond the hiring manager

By Robert Half on 16th January 2018

While hiring managers can often get a good idea about a candidate through the application and interview process, it can also be helpful to have potential new team members meet some of the people with whom they’ll be working.

Getting the right hire means more than assessing ‘will and skill’ – it means finding the person who the team will be happy to work with and who fits in well. Ideally, the hiring process should involve the following people:

1. The hiring manager

This is the person who knows the ins and outs of employment. A good hiring manager should have interviewed the team and the team leader about the position so they know what the role requires.

By the time the candidate gets to the interview stage, the hiring manager should have done the reference checks, background checks and any necessary testing.

2. The immediate supervisor

The person who oversees the new position needs to know the candidate can take direction and correction, works collaboratively, fits into the system and can perform.

It’s a lot to figure out at the interview, but at least they can gain a general impression about a candidate’s attitude and approach.

3. A peer

Someone from the team who’ll be working with the candidate at the same level. It’s often telling how people treat those who are above or below them. Peers will be looking for things that managers may not, and ultimately the peers are the ones who will have to work with the new person.

The upside is that once the candidate receives peer approval, the transition into the team is often much easier.

4. A subordinate

If the vacant role is a leadership position, you might want to consider having a subordinate or a panel of subordinates interview the applicant. Good leaders can maximise a team’s productivity, and a poor one can halve it, so letting the team have a say in the selection process could avoid big losses down the track.

Again, once the team signs off, the new candidate gets a big head start because there’s a pre-commitment to the new leader’s success in the team members’ minds.

A word of caution

Research has arrived at mixed conclusions about whether panel interviews are better at predicting candidate success than individual interviews. Panel interviewers can suffer from the same errors as individual ones, including the ‘halo effect’, whereby an initial positive – or negative – assessment tends to lead to a bias towards the candidate. The added risk with a panel interview is that of ‘contagion’, whereby one person’s positive or negative opinion can influence others.

Just as with single interviewers, panel members should have some training for conducting interviews, and there should be processes in place to improve rigour and reduce bias. These can include individual ‘secret’ ratings, predetermined questions, an agreement to challenge each other’s opinions and an agreed interview process.

Again, the inclusion of team members who will be future colleagues can also build goodwill and set the scene for a successful integration.

Panel interviews can be very useful for assessing ‘fit’ to the current team and discovering strengths and weaknesses in a candidate’s story.

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